Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)


Forestry and Environmental Conservation

Committee Chair/Advisor

Donald Hagan

Committee Member

Kyle Barrett

Committee Member

Beth Ross


Decades of fire suppression have contributed to the loss of historical ecosystems and to the decline of wildlife populations throughout the Southern Appalachian region. Recognizing the importance of fire in enhancing habitat and wildlife diversity, forest managers in recent years have begun implementing fire as a management tool to recover traditional disturbance regimes. Most of these burns take place during the dormant season, but some research has indicated dormant season burns are not effective in restoring ecosystem heterogeneity, and there has been a push to expand the use of fire into the growing season. However, much is still unknown about the practical applications of growing season burns and their effect on habitat and diversity. In this study, we compared the effects of dormant season and early growing season burns on forest structure and bird populations in the Southern Appalachians. Our results indicate that early growing season burns are most effective in reducing canopy cover and creating early and mid-successional open habitat, and that this enhanced heterogeneity positively influences bird populations. Total bird abundance and species richness were highest in early growing season burns, highlighting the effectiveness of this burn treatment in promoting a diversity of habitat niches that are important for wildlife in this region.



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